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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
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Thursday - August 16, 2012

From: Abilene, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Problem Plants, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Identity of plant that smells like oranges in Alpine, TX
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

There are patches of flat bushy like plants in lawn, smells like orange. Areas may be 10" and spreading, but when pulled has small root. How can I get rid of this plant and what is it?

ANSWER:

This sounds like one of the Crotons.  There are several species that occur in Brewster County and all have a characteristic odor, much like oranges, when the leaves are crushed.  The most likely one is Croton monanthogynus (Prairie tea).  Here are more photos and information from University of Texas School of Biological Sciences, Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension and from Missouri State University.

There are also:

Croton lindheimerianus (Threeseed croton).  Here are photos from the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation.

Croton pottsii var. pottsii (Leatherweed)

Croton suaveolens (Scented croton)

Croton texensis (Texas croton)

Croton incanus (Torrey's croton).  Here are photos and more information from Texas A&M Aggie Horticulture.

Croton fruticulosus (Bush croton)

The best way to get rid of the plant is just what you have been doing—pull it up.  On the other hand, you might consider waiting until after it's dropped its seeds.  Crotons are often called doveweeds for their important role in providing essential forage for doves, quail and other ground-feeding birds.

If this isn't the plant you have in your lawn, take photos of it and then visit our Plant Identification page where you will find links to several plant identification forums that will accept photos of plants for identification.

 

From the Image Gallery


Prairie tea
Croton monanthogynus

Prairie tea
Croton monanthogynus

Leatherweed
Croton pottsii var. pottsii

Scented croton
Croton suaveolens

Texas croton
Croton texensis

Bush croton
Croton fruticulosus

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